To estimate the immediate adverse events and safety of medical compared with surgical abortion using high-quality registry data.
All women in Finland undergoing induced abortion from 2000–2006 with a gestational duration of 63 days or less (n=42,619) were followed up until 42 days postabortion using national health registries. The incidence and risk factors of adverse events after medical (n=22,368) and surgical (n=20,251) abortion were compared. Univariable and multivariable association models were used to analyze the risk of the three main complications (hemorrhage, infection, and incomplete abortion) and surgical (re)evacuation.
The overall incidence of adverse events was fourfold higher in the medical compared with surgical abortion cohort (20.0% compared with 5.6%, P<.001). Hemorrhage (15.6% compared with 2.1%, P<.001) and incomplete abortion (6.7% compared with 1.6%, P<.001) were more common after medical abortion. The rate of surgical (re)evacuation was 5.9% after medical abortion and 1.8% after surgical abortion (P<.001). Although rare, injuries requiring operative treatment or operative complications occurred more often with surgical termination of pregnancy (0.6% compared with 0.03%, P<.001). No differences were noted in the incidence of infections (1.7% compared with 1.7%, P=.85), thromboembolic disease, psychiatric morbidity, or death.
Both methods of abortion are generally safe, but medical termination is associated with a higher incidence of adverse events. These observations are relevant when counseling women seeking early abortion.
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